A Flight to Remember

Mother Teresa and PCPAs

Left to right: Sr. Grace Marie, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Margaret Mary

It was an October evening in the late 1980’s.  Mother Angelica, Bill Steltemeier, Sr Margaret Mary, Sr Raphael and myself were standing in JFK Airport in New York, waiting to board a Pan Am flight to Rome.  Seeing two Missionaries of Charity also waiting ahead of us, I pointed them out to Rev. Mother,  “Oh, look Mother they’ll be on the same flight as us!”  No sooner had I made the observation, then a PR person for Pan Am came up to Mother and said, “Aren’t you Mother Angelica?”  As soon as she answered in the affirmative the woman said excitedly “Wonderful! We also have Mother Teresa on this flight, and we would like to upgrade you and your group to first class, as we have done with Mother.  Mother doesn’t like it, but we don’t give her a choice.”  The lady spoke with a smile that said we didn’t have a choice either.

Before anything else could be discussed we found ourselves being ushered onto a fairly empty aircraft, and there sitting near the entrance of the plane was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!  She immediately got up and greeted Mother Angelica and the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe that these two amazing women were together on the same flight, one who attended to the corporal works of mercy, and the other the spiritual works and…that I was on the flight with them!  Needless to say, this was possibly the only journey in my life that I felt absolutely no fear of any mishap!

I assumed that after the introduction that would be pretty much that for the rest of the trip, with perhaps these two spiritual giants speaking alone to each other.  Mother Angelica and Mother Teresa did sit together and speak for some time, but then, to my joy, in her kindness she sat with Sr Margaret Mary and myself and spoke to us. Her words, as always, were simple yet powerful, some things we had heard a hundred times before, but somehow, out of her lips, the words took on a new and greater meaning because of her great holiness.  She took her time and spoke to each one of us with a thoughtful attentiveness that made one feel regarded and loved.

During the remainder of the trip as she sat with her sisters ( and a brother), one felt her immense prayerfulness of heart, it was a great sense of the cloister that she carried with her. It was clear how she managed to accomplish so much: by her constant attention to and deep union with her Lord.  The Reverend Billy Graham once said of Mother Teresa, “When she walked into the room to greet me I felt that I was indeed meeting a saint.” He was of course right!

We arrived in Rome and said our good-byes. How grateful I was for the opportunity to have met this wonderful woman, a true daughter of the Church, who stopped at nothing to do God’s Will, bringing the light of Jesus to so many dark and hopeless places, just as He asked her, “Bring me into the dark holes of the poor. Come, carry me, I cannot go alone.

There is little doubt in my mind that she will be no less tireless in interceding in heaven for those who ask for her help than she was whilst on earth, for as she once said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”  She is another member of that great crowd of witnesses whom St Paul speaks about in Hebrews 12, praying for us and urging us ever forward. We join the Church and the world in thanking God for the canonization of this great intercessor for us.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

A Faithful Son of the Church

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 6.11.23 PM75 years a priest! What a remarkable achievement. A week ago, on October 1, a dear old friend, Fr. Lambert Greenan, celebrated this incredible milestone. It’s not everyday that you meet a priest who’s been ordained for three-quarters of a century (he was born in 1917!). After reading his short account of his vocation story, it reminded me of my first meeting with this wise and wonderful priest.

In 1991, Sr. Catherine, Sr. Gabriel and myself were stationed in Rome as Mother Angelica worked to establish the EWTN shortwave radio station there. One day, we went to St. Mary Major looking for an English-speaking priest to hear our confessions. A priest walked up to us, resplendent in his white Dominican habit, whereupon Sr. Gabriel asked, “Father, do you speak English?” In a beautiful Irish accent he replied “You could say I do,” and smiled. This was our first meeting with Fr. Lambert, a lovely Irish Dominican. Providence would later bring him to Alabama, where he’s been chaplain to the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word for the last 18 years. Please read his vocation story here. It is beautiful testimony to the importance of family in the life of the Church. I especially loved to hear how his father set such a beautiful example of the importance of confession.

Join us in thanking God for Fr. Lambert’s vocation and perseverance. Thank you, Father, for being such a faithful son of the Church.

Trust Amidst the Storm

Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning by Lorenzo Veneziano, 1370Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 14:22-33)

No sooner had Peter cried out to Jesus in desperation and terror than Jesus reaches down to save him. Whatever the translation might be – immediately, instantly, at once, at that very moment – Jesus straightaway responds to Peter. He doesn’t hesitate.
He reaches down and grasps Peter’s hand, holding on to His flailing and terror-stricken disciple.  Peter, in his utter helplessness and fear, suddenly feels the strong hand of his Lord on him, pulling him out of the churning waves. As Jesus pulls him out of those waves He reproaches him, “…O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Perhaps the greatest hurt we can cause our Lord is to doubt Him, to be fearful and not believe He can, or will, save us.  Jesus walks into the storms of our lives, which we encounter from time to time, to rescue us and bring us His peace.  But He waits for us to recognize our own fear and helplessness, to turn to Him, to cry out to Him, to trust Him. If we do, His response will always be swift, and sure. He will grasp us, pull us to Himself, and never let us go.

A Generous Heart

multiplication of loaves

I don’t know about you, but I think that generosity is such an attractive virtue, so appealing, so inspiring.

The Gospel reading today with the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish, shows the generosity of a little boy, and then, the inexhaustible generosity of God, who not only multiplies the gift, but for good measure, leaves some to spare!

As Jesus in another part of the Gospels pulls a child aside as an example of simplicity and humility, it is again a child who displays a generosity that the rest of those present in the crowd seem to lack. He offers the little that he has, all that he has, and with wonder watches Jesus multiply it.

Obviously in this Gospel there are so many different meanings on so many different levels.  Of course this is a prefigurement of the Eucharist, and here Jesus is demonstrating His power over creation.  But perhaps for today think also on that virtue of generosity: Of my generosity of heart towards God, and God’s generosity to me in return.

He won’t be outdone.

What mighty things Our Lord wants to, waits to, accomplish in us, through us, if only we let Him. He doesn’t want us to be embarrassed by the littleness of our offering.

He can make it into something great!  All He needs is our generosity of heart, just like that little child so long ago.

 

Christ in His Church


For most of us, it’s easy to let the hectic busy-ness of the workday week spill over into Sunday. It can easily become a time to catch up on everything we didn’t get done the previous week, rather than a day to honor God, spend time with family, and enjoy a much needed rest (yes, we really do need it, even God thinks so).

Here’s a reminder from the Second Vatican Council on why Sunday is so important.

From the constitution on the sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the Eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptizes, Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.

Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men. Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.

It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.

Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a preeminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.

In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.

By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.

Quis Sicut Deus – Saint Michael

“And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels. And they prevailed not…” (Rev. 12:7)

Some times in the busyness of life, it is easy to forget that we have powerful allies in the unseen world, angels who are our friends, protectors and guides.

Chief amongst them is the great archangel Saint Michael, whose feast (along with the other archangels Gabriel and Raphael) is today, although it is superceded today by Sunday.

Saint Michael of course appears in the old and new testaments of the bible, but he has also made appearances down through the centuries with churches, grottoes, caves, and the like attesting to that fact, Places built to honor him for his help and assistance, from Continue reading

9.11.01

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It was late afternoon, September 10, 2001. I had just had surgery and was pretty much out of it that evening from the effects of the anesthesia, drifting into a groggy sleep.

In the early hours of the morning I awoke fully alert; my mind was clear, so clear in fact, that I actually remember thinking how odd it was. I looked over at the clock, it was 3:00 AM on the morning of September 11.

As I lay there for a moment, the next thought that came to mind was a sense of urgency to pray for all who would die that day, so I said a chaplet of Divine Mercy, the prayer below, and a few other prayers, and offered the discomfort of my surgery for them.

As soon as I had finished my prayers I fell back into a deep sleep.

The next morning I awoke as a sister rushed into my room to tell me something terrible, something awful, was happening. The television was turned on and we watched, with growing horror, the events unfolding on the screen before us…and we prayed.

We prayed for the people in the Twin Towers, the people at the Pentagon, the people on an airplane flying towards a field in Pennsylvania.

As we prayed, I felt that hundreds, thousands of others, were praying with us, praying for those very same souls. People we did not know, but who needed our prayers at that most important and distressing moment of their lives.

I suddenly remembered the early morning prayers, and knew those prayers also had been for them. I wondered how many others had been wakened from sleep to pray for the souls of those who would die that day, and marveled at God’s never failing Providence.

I realized how easy it would have been that night to roll over and go back to sleep, ignoring that call to pray. I’m so glad that I didn’t.

Many times the Holy Spirit places on our hearts a compelling urge to stop and pray for someone, we often won’t know why, and we probably won’t know who…but God does.

Let us remember in prayer all those who died this day twelve years ago, and those who died last year in Benghazi. May they rest in peace.

 Prayer for the Dying
Most merciful heart of Jesus, lover of souls.
I pray Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart,
and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother,
wash in Thy Blood those in the whole world, who now are
in their last agony, and are to die this day.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have mercy on the dying. Amen.